Celebrate the Winter Solstice with a Night Outdoors

Rebecca Walsh

I love December 21st, the longest night of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere.

During this time, also known as the winter solstice, the Earth’s axis tilts the furthest away from the sun, giving all locations north of the equator less than 12 hours of daylight.

For years I’ve been fascinated with how ancient cultures followed the movement of the sun throughout the sky. I love tales of feasts and parties to celebrate the end of the dark, cold nights as the days become longer and the nights become shorter.

For my family the winter solstice is a special night, a night where we like to put a modern spin on history and a night where we take a break from traditional Christmas festivities and the chaos of the holiday season. We like to celebrate the longest night of the year with light, warmth and outdoor adventure.

Here are a few fun ways to celebrate the winter solstice if you’re looking for a night of outdoor celebration, instead of a night at home watching reruns of holiday movies.

  • Select a Yule Log to be burned on the winter solstice. You can burn it in your fireplace or outdoors. Tradition has it that once the log has been lit it should remain remain burning. Some people decorate their Yule Log and others even save the remains to start the Yule Log fire the following year. We like to burn a special log that we’ve decorated with ribbon and leaves in our outdoor fire pit and celebrate with festive foods and drinks to warm and brighten the cold, dark winter night.
  • If you live in a cold place make your own Finnish ice candles by placing a small circular container weighed down with rocks instead of a larger circular container. Add water to the outer circle, let the water freeze, remove the containers and stick a candle inside of the ice. The candles will emit a magical glow. Ice candles are traditionally used to remember deceased loved ones and family members during the holidays, but I like to think of them as adding light and warmth to the long night.
  • If it’s a clear night take a few minutes to look at the sky. See if you can identify constellations such as Sirius, Orion, Capella, Taurus, and  even the planet Jupiter
  • Or better yet, bundle up your children and head to a nearby park, national forest or nature preserve. Explore the dark night on cross-country skis, snowshoes or just with your hiking boots. If you’re feeling bold and on a trail that you’re comfortable with turn off your headlamps and let your eyes adjust to the darkness for a unique and fun experience. If you’re really brave and really want to get away from the holiday madness enjoy the long night by camping in a tent, yurt or cabin.

For me, the holiday season is about creating memories, having fun and spending time together as a family. The winter solstice is the perfect opportunity to create those memories and get outdoors.

Do you have any winter solstice traditions?



Celebrate the Winter Solstice with a Night Outdoors

This post was written by Rebeca Walsh exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.


Rebecca Walsh spends her days on the mountains and her nights behind a computer. She runs the website, Just Trails, with her husband and writes trail guides for Southeastern Wyoming and Northern Colorado. You can also find her blogging on Hike Like A Woman and Moms Who Hike.